2020: The year in pictures, from lockdowns and protests to vaccines and hope

As the year draws to a close, we reflect on what we've been through.

Sarah Tew
I'm a visual storyteller, working primarily in the medium of photography and photoshop. I listen to more podcasts than I can keep up with and enjoy gardening, cooking, reading, and am striving for a sustainable lifestyle. A big-picture thinker, I am always trying to put the pieces together, and though things are scary these days, I believe humanity will pull through.
James Martin Managing Editor, Photography
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
Expertise photojournalism, portrait photography, behind-the-scenes Credentials
  • 2021 Graphis Photography Awards, Gold Award, Journalism, 'The Doorway' Graphis Photography Awards, Silver Award, Portrait, 'Cast of film '1917'' Graphis Photography Awards, Silver Award, Environmental, 'Upper Lola Montez' ND Awards, Architecture, 'Taj Mah
Sarah Tew
James Martin
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It's hard to imagine, but 2020 began somewhat unremarkably. For instance, we at CNET headed to Las Vegas to cover the annual Consumer Electronics Show, just as we'd always done every January for ages. 

Little did we know, it would be the last place many of us would travel to, the last time many of us would mix with hundreds and thousands of people, for quite a while... 

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After weeks of increasingly worrisome headlines about the inevitable spread of coronavirus around the world, events like Mobile World Congress -- normally a fixture on CNET's calendar for February -- were canceled. By mid-March, major cities were going into lockdown, and all of CNET was directed to work from home until further notice.

Empty San Francisco tourism
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As cities emptied, the tourism industry came to a halt. Bustling city centers like San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf were left desolate.

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Many of us "headed for the hills," so to speak, escaping cities to avoid being trapped in a tiny apartment amid a dense population during a pandemic.  

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Around the country, it was surreal seeing everything closed.

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Beloved restaurants converted to takeout-only operations as restrictions descended and business owners grew more concerned.

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There were runs on toilet paper, bleach and other sanitizing products, and even food in some stores. For a while many grocery stores were either sold out or strictly limiting purchases.

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Grocery stores and other providers of essential goods started implementing all sorts of safety precautions, providing hand sanitizer at the door and wiping down carts between customers. As the year went on, these measures were expanded upon.

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The wearing of masks became mandatory indoors in most public places and businesses. Markings on flooring indicated the appropriate spacing for customers waiting in line.

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The stats on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website were complex, and the data was nonstop. Stuck at home glued to our phones and TVs for the latest information, many became more anxious than ever. 

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As the coronavirus panic unfolded, it seemed that 2020 was a good year to be an introvert. 

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Many people learned to bake bread for the first time, and some have even stuck with it. Here are two delicious-looking loaves by CNET's Laura Martinez.

Twitter What's Happening
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Stuck at home, asking ourselves 'what's happening?' and craving coronavirus news and updates, the world turned to Twitter in a year that our endless scrolling became known as "doomscrolling.".

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Working from home became the norm for all who could manage their tasks online.

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Of course working from home can be challenging. Here's Patricia Puentes' home Zoom setup for an interview with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings the same day California's skies were eerily orange and dark due to wildfires. 

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With kids "doing school" at home, many parents working from home had to scramble to figure out how to manage all their responsibilities simultaneously.

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CNET's Bridget Carey sometimes relied on "babysitting" via abuela video chats mirrored to the big screen.

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Families had to share special moments over Zoom and other apps. Here you see Carey's daughter hugging the screen after a virtual group birthday song for her special day.

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On the West Coast of the United States, the skies turned orange as record wildfires raged. Smoke shrouded the entire western region, and even carried as far as the East Coast.

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Inspired to set out positive messages to their community, lots of people painted rocks and set them out on city sidewalks and in other public places.

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Amazon saw record profits as people hunkered down at home and ordered goods to be delivered more than ever before.

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As coronavirus testing operations slowly popped up around the country, a lot of people were able to finally see if they had the virus or had developed antibodies to it at some point. 

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Although all kinds of gatherings, concerts and sporting events were shut down, love carried on, as this mural in Asheville, North Carolina, asserted.

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It was a good year for board games and card games.

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We found solace in nature, taking hikes and and enjoying open spaces whenever possible as a break from all the staying at home.

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Lots of people took up gardening and took on home improvement projects they'd been putting off for years. Lowe's and Home Depot reported record sales in the second quarter.

Fueled by worries about supply chains and shortages, and given the time for new hobbies at home, there was also a major uptick in vegetable gardening around the country.

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Throughout the year, we were all urged to stick with mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing to help suppress spread of the coronavirus, and paid close attention to the race to develop an effective vaccine.

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A stimulus bill was passed, sending $1,200 to individuals, and $2,400 to couples, via online banking or physical checks in the mail.

Ripple XRP
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As economies around the world struggled to deal with the effects of the coronavirus, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and XRP flourished in 2020. Bitcoin reached a record high price, continuing a rise that began in the early stages of the pandemic. 

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Some people were stockpiling weapons in fear of chaos, should society fall apart or a contested election lead to a "civil war."

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The Paycheck Protection Program offered everyone from small businesses to huge corporations loans with a 1% interest rate in order to cover payroll for workers they kept on staff over the course of closures due to the pandemic.Still, unemployment has remained high.

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Many citizens had trouble getting their stimulus payment, which had been sent out via ACH payment or as a paper check, depending on how you paid your taxes in 2019.

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Just a few months into the coronavirus lockdowns, the murder of George Floyd was upsetting enough to get lots of people out in the streets for protests, social distancing or no. 

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Though bigger cities saw more intense actions, including some rioting, even smaller cities like Asheville, North Carolina, had well-attended Black Lives Matter protests.

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After years of heartbreaking videos that exposed police killings of Black citizens, the dam seemed to break and we started seeing a real public conversation around reform and defunding. Messages of support for Black Lives Matter popped up everywhere from murals on small businesses to advertising from major corporations.

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As coronavirus infection numbers went down over the summer in some areas, many places that had restrictions in place began letting businesses open up, with safety measures in place.

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Some businesses found ways to help keep us distanced in their parking lots.

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Meanwhile, the political climate was amped up to the max. Voting by mail put intense pressure on the Post Office, and there was a while when it seemed like the USPS itself was in jeopardy.

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Desperate for haircuts after many months at home, people made appointments at newly opened salons, and stylists, eager to stay employed, took all the precautions possible to stay safe.

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Interest in various personal protection equipment exploded as folks got back to work with new safety requirements in place. Arguments over the effectiveness of various mask styles revved up online.

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Restaurants that wished to reopen had to do so with limited capacity and/or outdoor-only dining in many locations, which led to a lot of sidewalks and streets looking like this scene in Brooklyn.

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2020 saw an exodus from bigger cities like New York, where many citizens, afraid of the population density and tired of paying high rent while being stuck in cramped apartments, gave up their leases and headed for greener pastures.

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Authorities say that a return to normal life will only be possible once the majority of people are vaccinated. Thankfully, late in the year, vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna earned emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Still, public health officials urge us to continue social distancing and mask wearing in the months ahead, as the vaccines slowly make their way out to the general population.

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In 2020, it seemed like anything unbelievable was now a possibility. The Pentagon released three classified "UFO" videos filmed by US Navy, mystery monoliths appeared around the country and the former head of Israel's space security program said a "Galactic Federation" of aliens is working with the US and Israel.

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After all the tumult of 2020, one wonders what will be in store for us in 2021. Here's hoping for the best! Cheers to the new year!

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